National Curry WeekThe other day I learned of National Curry Week in the U.K. This year, it runs from October 7 through 13. Its mission is to promote this cuisine and raise money to fight poverty in South Asia as well as worldwide. Restaurants across the U.K. create special menus for diners to try. What I have learned is that this event (or series of events) raises money for many different charities as well as raises awareness of the conditions of the world’s poor.
 

What a wonderfully creative concept to help protect humankind. Check out this link to learn more:  http://www.national-awareness-days.com/national-curry-week.html

 

Cheers!

 

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Thiruvathira is a unique festival of Kerala that happens in January. This is exclusively a women’s festival. The legend Parvati, the consort of Lord Siva, took a vow restricting very many food items. She understood these vows for the welfare of Siva as well as her devotion to her husband. Thiruvathira comes in the month of Makaram according to the Kerala calendar that corresponds to January, the coldest part of the year. On this day the women go to nearby pools or a river and get into the chilly water for a bath. They sing songs of praise for Parvati. After the bath, they go home and follow a restricted diet omitting rice completely. The food they eat consists of wheat grain cooked instead of rice, a special curry called Puzhuku, made of various tubers and vegetables. They also make a special pudding made of arrowroot powder.

 

During this festival most of the women wear Mundu and Veshti. They also make special swings with coconut fiber ropes on which the women and children play during the day.

 

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Happy New Year! Don’t forget that there is still time to make your New Year resolutions. Perhaps you might consider something easy like:

 

  • Cook more Indian food. – This is easy to achieve simply by preparing my special monthly recipes.
  • Learn to cook Indian food. – This is easy if you read my previous post.
  • Try eating some Indian food. – Ok, this is really easy to achieve! If you don’t want to cook, go to an Indian restaurant or buy frozen Indian entrees at an Indian grocery store. Please don’t eat the Indian food from the American chain stores because their recipes have been altered to satisfy American palates.

 

Stay tuned for more adventures in all things Indian from Kachi’s Kitchen in 2013!

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Karthigai Deepam is a festival of lights that has been celebrated across Tamil Nadu during the month Karthigai for over 2000 years. It is actually an extension of Deepavali which happened earlier. It occurs during our November or December and is named for the constellation Karthigai and lights, or Deepam, which is an auspicious symbol in India. Lighting the lamps is believed to bring prosperity and happiness as well as to ward off evil spirits.

 

Oil lamps made from brass lit to celebrate Karthika Deepam.

Oil lamps made from brass lit to celebrate Karthika Deepam.

 

To celebrate this festival, people light lamps in their homes and make them visible in the windows and on balconies. People draw kolams (geometric designs drawn in chalk) outside their front door. Often they place one or two lamps on it. Lamps can be seen up and down every street. 

This kolam was drawn with chalk outside our neighbor's door in Chennai.

This kolam was drawn with chalk outside our neighbor’s door in Chennai.

 

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The Festival of Lights is celebrated today across Kerala and Tamil Nadu in South India as well as the rest of the country. Deepavali, the original name for this festival came from the words deepa that means light and vali that means row. The name literally means row of lights. The name was shortened to Diwali by Hindi speakers in north India.

 

Deepavali symbolizes a culture that values knowledge over ignorance, light over darkness and goodness over evil. Today it symbolizes hope, friendship and the joy of life. It is a time for friendship and sharing.  Even though this is a cultural holiday, Goddess Lakshmi is the main deity who brings wealth and prosperity to every home.

 

To find out more about Deepavali, check out these posts:

 

What is Deepavali

The Legends of Deepavali

Getting Ready for Deepavali

Celebrating Deepavali

 

I wish you Happy Deepavali with best wishes for a prosperous year.

 

 

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Today is the 143rd anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of modern India due to his work at achieving independence for his country from Britain. It is also the International Day of Non-Violence that was established by the United Nations in his honor. His fundamental values were truth and nonviolence. Important leaders such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela strive to emulate him.

 

A bust of Gandhi in his home Mani Bhavan in Bombay, India.

A bust of Gandhi in his home Mani Bhavan in Bombay, India.

 

Gandhi’s birth is celebrated across India as a national holiday known as Gandhi Jayanti. On this day, the President and Prime Minister pay homage at the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi where he was cremated. Prayers are read and his favorite song is sung.

 

Read about Gandhi’s life

 

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Originally a Hindu festival, Onam, Kerala’s largest and most important festival, is now celebrated by everyone in the state.  It occurs every year in August or September after the harvest.  In the Malayalam calendar, it starts in the month of Chingam on the 13th day, called Atham, and ends ten days later on the 22nd day, Thiruvonam.  In this calendar each month has 28 days so the dates change each year.  This year Onam is celebrated on August 29th.

 

Every day during the ten day festival, the children spend the evenings walking around the neighborhood with baskets collecting flowers that grow wild or in their yard.  In the mornings, the children clean their courtyards and, with the help of their elders, make beautiful floral patterns on the floor.

 

On the eighth day, people make a small pyramid about 18 inches tall out out of clay, called Thrikakarappam, which represents Vishnu.  It is placed in the middle of the floral carpet with a lit brass lamp called a nilavilaku and a kindi, a special brass pitcher, filled with water. On the morning of Thiruvonam, the oldest person in the home conducts a pooja (prayer service) with flowers and the traditional tulasi leaves (a special herb).  Every member of the house participates in the pooja to welcome King Mahabali (see my blog entry of August 5, 2010, The Story of Onam, Kerala’s Harvest Festival to learn the background).  Everyone is happy and wears new clothes.  A grand Onasadya (Onam feast), which is served on banana leaves in thelargest room in the house, follows.  The family cooks many delicious vegetarian dishes.  Each item is placed in a specific location on the banana leaf when served.

 

Traditional thali served on a banana leaf.

Traditional thali served on a banana leaf.

Items typically on the menu include:

 


Rice with dal and ghee                        Inji Thairu (Ginger Yogurt)*

Sambar                                              Varutha Upperi (Triangle shaped banana chips)*

Kaalan                                                Sharkara Upperi (Jaggery coated banana chips)* 

Olan                                                   Chenna Upperi*
Ericherry                                            Pappadams

Urulakizhangu Ishtu (Potato Stew)      Boiled nendrapazham (banana) pieces*
Koottu Curry                                       Pickle

Cabbage Thoran                                  Yogurt

Mulaga Pachadi

 

The meal is followed by two types of Payasam for dessert:  Semia Payasam (with sugar and vermicelli) and Cherupayaru Payasam (with jaggery and green gram).

 

After the feast, the people of Kerala end the day with boat races, athletic activities, group dancing performed by the ladies (kaikotthi kali) and fireworks.

 

All of the educational institutions in Kerala are closed for the ten days of the festival while the banks and government offices are closed for just two days.


[Items with * are not in Kachi’s Kitchen but may be included in the next cookbook.]

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Today in India is the Hindu festival in honor of the birth of Lord Krishna. It is called Srikrishna Jayanti (meaning long live Sri Krishna) or Krishna Janmashtami. It is a daylong celebration in which an idol of Krishna is decorated. Followers make sweets that are then placed at the base of the idol along with favorite fruits. The day ends with prayers.

 

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Today is the 65th anniversary of the day back in 1947 that Britain, represented by Lord Mountbatten, and the Indian leaders agreed to transfer power and declared India a sovereign independent country. Starting with the freedom struggle that began with the First War of Independence in 1857 and Gandhi’s freedom struggle in the 1920s and 1930s followed by Gandhi’s Quit India movement, Britain realized Indian independence was only a matter of time.

 

 Indian Flag

Happy birthday, India!

 

For more information, please check out my post from last year.

 

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The Kerala festival, Pooram, is an extravagant event that occurs each year after the summer harvest. Each town has its own festival, many of which feature an elephant decorated with gold ornaments and trappings. Some smaller festivals may use dressed up horses or men instead. 

 

The festival in Thrissur is the most well known since many elephants are sent here to participate in the pageantry. More than two-dozen elephants each ridden by three specially trained mahouts (elephant riders) in their finery line up and parade down the street. As the elephants parade, they are accompanied by the sound of traditional instruments, conch shell, cymbals, trumpets and drums. Everyone comes out to see the impressive and majestic sight. Since this is India, Thrissur Pooram would not be complete without many rounds of firecrackers to wind up the day. It is a fun time for everyone in Kerala!

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